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Power attained through bullying guarantees rebellion

Politicians and business leaders need to learn the lessons of effective team work

Many of the political and economic challenges being faced in South Africa and globally are classic failures in team management – a lack of accountability, divided people, differences are enhanced rather than managed and excellence is not emphasised.

Team is the most over-hyped term in management and business, it’s also a word rarely effectively applied - to the detriment of strong businesses and content workforces, Liza van Wyk, CEO of major national training company, AstroTech says.

Her organisation runs more than 60 different types of public courses for managers and executives nationwide and almost double that as in-house courses. One of the most popular in-house courses is one on Team Effectiveness. “It’s a high calibre intensive course with a range of practical exercises to get managers and their staff thinking in a more collaborative, accountable and effective manner,” van Wyk says. Participants are often those from deeply divided units within corporates, parastatals and government, “often this exercise is what is needed for individuals to realise that they are sabotaging not just the effectiveness of an organisation but their own future.”

Team Effectiveness is one of the most nuanced aspects of management and one that taxes business leaders and consultants. Management authors Dean Lebaron and Romesh Vaitlingam observe that: “Business management is very similar to movie production: bringing people together to engage in a creative function as and when necessary. People can be members of several creative teams at the same time. But in each one, we have to have one who has the ‘fire in the belly’ to make it happen.”

Well-known international management consultant Des Dearlove agrees, he says an effective team leader – which includes executives – “has an ability to excite people in their organisations. They also work extremely hard and are highly resistant to stress. They are very aware of what their failings are and make sure that they find good people who can fill those areas.”

But sometimes managers or team leaders misunderstand ‘fire in the belly’ to apply an often bullying, coercive approach to management that sees productivity drop and tempers flare.

AstroTech’s Team Effectiveness course helps executives and team leaders create a spirit of high performance including an emphasis on results orientation, achievement and excellence; playing to people’s strengths which needs an inherent belief in the worth of an individual, clear performance expectations and accountable management.

Van Wyk explains, “humans are complex, we approach problems based on our own prior experience, career expectations and our own inner set of beliefs and prejudices, the challenge facing an effective team leader is to manage all those aspects without people feeling they are being forced or compromised and that their views or ideas are heard. The next challenge is to motivate the group or organisation to work in a dynamic, mutually supportive way to achieve goals in the interests not just of the organisation but all involved too.”

There are a number of recognised obstacles to resolution – these obstacles pertain not just to business but to personal lives and politics. Aspects that hamper easy resolution of challenges include:

· Using power/money/coercion/connections/status as the basis for resolution
· Becoming a victim of perceived power
· Operating in a predominant ego state
· Using the ‘difficult person’ label
· Distorted communication and poor listening
· Failing to acknowledge emotions
· Superficial conflict discussions

In such situations, AstroTech’s Team Effectiveness course teaches that “using power in such a way causes each side to be pitted against one another, inevitably leading to a win-lose scenario.” Many political conflicts across the world typify this but what then happens is that “the most powerful side will get what it wants, encouraging an abuse of power. This in turn may result in ‘less powerful’ side to use negative forms of power to get their interests met.” And so we have protests, sabotage, strikes, arguments and workplace conflict.

“It’s remarkable how much human behaviour is predictable and how little we learn unless we have been sensitised to observe our conduct and that of our team and to take the right measures to remedy problems,” van Wyk says.

Classic ways to generate rebelliousness in teenagers, partners, work associates and customers is to use verbal red flags, for example, “you’ll never change” (judging); “you are so stubborn” (personalising); “don’t you think you should” (manipulating); “that’s so typical of you” (labelling); “I’ll tell you what your problem is” (diagnosing) and “you always; you never” (generalising) – if you want to ensure your words are ignored, preface them with one of those verbal red flags.

Team Effectiveness occurs when everyone’s concerns are honoured, there is a commitment to ongoing relationships, the team has moved beyond emotional positions are willing to learn, have the courage to change and compassion to forgive.

“In a good team and a healthy corporate or working environment, people feel free to engage in discussion, they welcome each other’s views. There is a general camaraderie at work and a buzz, an energy among people who enjoy working with each other. It takes constant work, but it is a far easier management solution than eternal conflict, high staff turnover and low productivity,” Van Wyk notes.

Imagine how much happier the world would be if more politicians took note.

LIZA VAN WYK, CEO AstroTech   011 453 5291 cell: 082 466 8975 or
Issued by MediaOnLine  011-646 7637